Jackson — Bret Baxter enjoyed his previous career as an owner of the Habana Smoke Shoppe, including doing innovative marketing techniques such as his Cigars Under the Stars events.
Then last May he had to have heart surgery, and it changed everything. “I couldn’t stay in the cigar business and not smoke cigars,” Baxter said. “I had been interested in real estate for a long time, but hadn’t done it. When I was recovering from heart surgery, I found out how to get a license. Since then I have been trying to redefine myself because real estate has a lot to do with self promotion. Being previously involved in marketing, I wanted to market myself in the real estate market.”
Baxter worked in marketing and sales for Toshiba, JVC and Zenith for about 18 years earlier in his life, but he got tired of the travel. The marketing background has helped him in efforts to build his career in real estate. And the timing is also good.
“Real estate is very, very hot right now,” said Baxter, who is a real estate agent for Century 21, Maselle & Associates. “It is a common topic of conversation, partly because of a lot of TV shows on the topic. Plus, people are getting tired of not making money in the stock market, so they are investing locally. They are making value improvements to property, and selling those properties for a profit.”
Buying a property, fixing it up and reselling for a profit isn’t a new idea. It has been done since people began trading real estate. But Baxter says it seems to be an accelerated trend now, particularly in older neighborhoods.
“The homes need updating,” he said. “People are going in, fixing up homes, putting them back on the market, and benefiting tremendously from their time and effort.”
As someone new to real estate, one thing he has found extremely interesting is how many things in our daily lives evolve around real estate: where we live, work, worship, eat, congregate, and buy gas (paying for it dearly these days) all involves real estate.
Right now he is dedicating himself mostly to the residential market, and believes a major growth trend is coming.
“There is a lot of growth going on in Mississippi, particularly the Jackson metro market,” Baxter said. “Some people are forecasting over the next 20 years 40 million people are going to move from the North to the South. A lot of that is Baby Boomers retiring, and moving to the South because they want a milder climate and more affordable housing and lifestyles. They are selling their homes in California for $800,000, coming here and buying a home at $200K, and living on the equity on their home.”
Baxter said the bottom line is finally in Jackson, and Mississippi in general, a lot of pieces of the puzzle are being put together.
“There have never been more or better reasons to live here, and I think that holds true not just in Jackson, but also Mississippi,” he said. “I believe in my product, and my product is Jackson and Mississippi. I know a lot of people in the area, so I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of good listings and sales.”
Baxter is also working with new people coming into the market, often accompanying them on what he calls “phase two” recruiting. Businesses recruiting employees to work as physicians or other healthcare professionals represent “phase one” where the potential employees are introduced to the workplace. Phase two is selling them on the Jackson metro area.
“You sell the career, and I’ll sell the house,” Baxter said. “A lot of people come to Jackson and don’t even know we have a reservoir. They also come to town with a lot of stereotypical imagines of the South, in general, and Mississippi, in particular. We have to show them those things are not true. They are impressed with what they see here: great restaurants, quality housing, live entertainment and family entertainment and a good variety of places to shop. There is also a lot of new stuff going on like Harbor Walk at the Ross Barnett Reservoir and all the things going on downtown on Farish Street and with the new convention center.”
To help spread the news of the real estate market in metro Jackson, Baxter has started “The Real Estate Reality” radio show on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. on WLEZ 103.7 FM. He does news capsules on national, state and local real estate news. He also hosts guests in related fields. In addition to doing things like announcing open houses or for sale by owner properties, he also talks about local charity events.
“I don’t think you can be part of the community without giving back to the community,” Baxter said. “Even if you don’t necessarily have money to give to the community, you can give your services to help non-profit organizations. I talk about fundraisers, and other community events. Most of the program is based around information, and is not sales oriented.”
Baxter is a big believer in community improvement.
“Regardless of what the politicians and bureaucrats may say, no government program can replace civic pride, capitalism and private investment,” he said. “We have seen the results in every part of our community and it has only just begun. Trust me, the best days of Mississippi and metro Jackson are ahead and there is no looking back.”
And there is also no looking back for Baxter regarding his career change.
“For once in my life I feel like I’m at the right place, doing the right thing at the perfect time,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org.